Morning Brief

U.N. Climate Conference Opens in Madrid

Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet to hash out crucial negotiations on the Paris climate agreement.

Waves hit the shore in Majuro, the capital city of the Marshall Islands, one of the small islands nations pushing for U.N. action at COP25.
Waves hit the shore in Majuro, the capital city of the Marshall Islands, one of the small islands nations pushing for U.N. action at COP25. HILARY HOSIA/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The 25th U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Madrid, pressure rises on Mexico’s president after one year in office, and what to watch in the world this week.

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U.N. Climate Meetings Begin With Message of Urgency

This year’s annual U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, begins today in Madrid, where 29,000 visitors are expected over the next two weeks, including 50 heads of state. Ahead of the conference, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres underlined the meeting’s urgency, saying that the climate crisis could soon reach the “point of no return.” “What is still lacking is political will,” Guterres said on Sunday. “[T]he world’s largest emitters are not pulling their weight.”

At COP25, delegates from nearly 200 countries are expected to nail down some details left open by the 2015 Paris climate accord, including how carbon-trading systems and compensation for poor countries with rising sea levels will work. The conference was originally scheduled to be held in Brazil and then Chile, but the election of President Jair Bolsonaro and the protests in Santiago changed those plans. Spain agreed to host last month.

Europe leads the way. The European Union’s new team of leaders began their terms on Sunday, emphasizing climate change policy as a key priority for the bloc. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman in the position, arrives in Madrid today. It was also announced Sunday that Mark Carney, currently the governor of the Bank of England, will become the U.N. envoy on climate finance in January.

Who is the U.S. sending? Senior members from the Trump administration will be notably absent from COP25, though U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi is bringing a 15-member congressional delegation to Madrid. Last month, the United States began the yearlong process to withdraw from the Paris agreement—the only country to do so.

What We’re Following Today

Pressure rises on Mexico’s president. Suspected cartel violence killed 20 people in northern Mexico over the weekend, increasing calls for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, already under pressure from the United States, to do more to contain the gangs. López Obrador marked one year in office on Sunday, and he has vowed to push on: “We are practicing politics in a new way,” he said. Though thousands marched in protest in Mexico City, the president still enjoys widespread support despite the ongoing violence and a struggling economy.

Malta’s prime minister intends to step down. Facing calls to resign amid an investigation into a murdered journalist, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Sunday that he will ask his party to replace him next month. The move came after a businessman with alleged links to government officials was charged with complicity in the 2017 killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist. Thousands of anti-government protesters marched on Sunday, with critics disappointed that Muscat did not resign immediately.

Hong Kong rallies after local elections. Tens of thousands marched in city-authorized rallies in Hong Kong on Sunday, a week after pro-democracy candidates won control of 17 of 18 of the city’s local districts. The protesters hoped to build upon the movement’s success at the polls by reiterating their five demands, including an investigation into the police force. While the protests were the first permitted by authorities in weeks, there were clashes between demonstrators and the police, who used tear gas to disperse crowds in the afternoon.

The World This Week

NATO leaders hold a summit in London beginning on Tuesday. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is hoping to avoid a disruption from U.S. President Donald Trump, who at a meeting last year criticized other countries’ smaller contributions to the military alliance’s budget. On Thursday, NATO announced that it would reduce the U.S. contribution.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold its first public impeachment hearing on Wednesday, while Trump is in London. White House lawyers said on Sunday that they would not participate in the hearing, where legal experts will assess whether the president committed impeachable offenses in his dealings with Ukraine.

Canada’s Parliament reconvenes on Thursday, more than a month after the general election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to set out his minority government’s agenda—including a middle-class tax cut and climate change legislation—in a so-called Throne Speech followed by a confidence vote.

Keep an Eye On

What’s next for Iraq. Facing mass demonstrations, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has officially resigned, leaving the political crisis to the country’s parliament. But legislators aren’t likely to agree on a leader to replace him, the Washington Post reports. Meanwhile, the protest movement could pose the greatest challenge to Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The “Power of Siberia” pipeline. Today an 1,800-mile pipeline will begin pumping natural gas from Russia to China, marking a landmark $400 billion deal between the two global powers amid China’s ongoing trade war with the United States. But China will face a challenge boosting gas demand in its northeast, which is heavily reliant on coal for energy. 

Catholicism’s civil war. The Vatican’s recent outreach to indigenous groups in the Amazon has angered traditionalist groups already primed against the Francis papacy. But the tension is particularly charged in Bolivia, where Roman Catholicism was once the state religion and the first indigenous president, Evo Morales, has now resigned, Sharon Kuruvilla writes for FP.

Odds and Ends

The biennial Southeast Asian Games, hosted this year by the Philippines, could be derailed by the approaching Typhoon Kammuri. President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed a few thousand athletes and coaches on Saturday, but more than 8,000 guests from 11 countries are expected for the 11-day games, which could be delayed if the storm strengthens.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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